How many steps do you really need for a good skincare routine?

Maria from WIMJ

Quick answer: There are only three essential steps for a good skincare routine:

1. Sunscreen - morning.

2. Cleanser - night.

3. Moisturizer - night and as needed.

You can add targeted treatments with specific skincare actives to help you address a skin concern -- if you have any. Even for the most complex skin issues, you should not be using more than 2-3 different treatments.

Taking care of your skin is more than just a beauty routine - it’s an important part of maintaining overall health. But skincare can be overwhelming, with so many products and steps to choose from. While there are some skincare ingredients that may help you achieve specific goals such as reducing acne or anti-aging, the truth is that most of us only need a few simple steps in our skincare regimen.

It turns out, simplifying your skincare routine is the key to beautiful skin. A great place to start are three essential steps: sunscreen in the morning for protection from damaging UV rays; cleanser at night that removes dirt and pollution; plus moisturizer at night or whenever your skin feels dry. That’s it for a proper dermatologically-sound skincare regimen. If you have any specialized goals or needs for specific ingredients just add those on top of this core foundation – but watch out! Too many products can actually leave undesirable results– remember, when it comes to caring for skin less really is more.

Basic skincare steps

  1. Sunscreen. Sunscreen is a must. Sun damage is one of the main causes of skin aging, pigment issues, and can even worsen acne - so it’s essential to wear sunscreen daily, and you need to make sure that is provides a broad spectrum protection. Just don't forget to re-apply throughout the day if you are outside for extended periods of time.

  2. Cleanser. Cleansing your skin at night helps remove dirt, oil, sweat and makeup from your face that has accumulated during the day. However, cleansing too often, using products that are too harsh or following double- or triple-cleanse process can cause dryness and irritation. To avoid this, stick to cleansing once per day in the evening, with a mild cleanser (not a soap!).

  3. Moisturizer. To keep your skin barrier healthy, moisturizing is key! Doing so will result in hydrated, glowing and non-sensitive skin. When choosing a moisturizer, look for the components of humectants (glycerin and hyaluronic acid), emollients (dimethicone) & occlusives (oils or butters). Plus, you don't have to break the bank when selecting one—there are plenty of affordable options available. To ensure optimal protection for your skin barrier, opt for a fragrance-free product. If you're looking to add some extra oomph to your moisturizer, choose one with helpful ingredients like ceramides, peptides, oatmeal extracts, niacinamide or panthenol that will further fortify your skin's protective layer.

Less is more

When it comes to skincare, don’t feel like you need to buy every product on the shelf - keep it simple! Having too many products in your skincare routine can be counter-productive because it can cause skin irritation. This irritation can add to the inflammation in skin, resulting in more acne, destruction of collagen, pigmentation issues, skin redness and dryness.

To keep your skincare routine streamlined and effective, focus on just a few key skincare steps - sunscreen, cleanser and moisturizer. From there you can slowly build up according to any specific skincare goals or concerns that you have. Don't fall into the trap of 10-step skincare routines! The only goal they have is to make you buy more products and waste your precious time. Not to mention, these routines can destroy your skin barrier without bringing any benefits. Spend your money (and time) wisely on what truly matters for healthy skin - not gimmicky influencer campaigns.

Target your skin concerns with a few right actives

If you have any skincare concerns, such as acne, anti-aging or pigmentation, then there are some active skincare ingredients that can help you achieve your goals. retinoids (vitamin A derivatives), niacinamide and bakuchiol are all good options for helping to reduce acne, pigmentation and signs of aging. For pigmentation issues, you can also consider actives like thiamidol, ascorbic acid or alpha-arbutin. But again - don’t go overboard with products! All these actives work best when used carefully.

It's important to note that skincare isn't a “one size fits all” approach. Take time to learn about the skincare products that best suit your needs - this will help you create a skincare routine that works for you!

Yet, we know that finding the perfect skincare routine for you can be tricky. With so many products in the market, it’s hard to know which ones actually work and even what actives they contain. That’s why we have developed a free personalized skincare routine builder, designed to take out all the guesswork.

Simply answer a few easy questions about your skin, and our algorithm will match these answers with the right skincare actives and products. We currently have over 60,000 products in our database, so you can quickly and easily create an effective routine tailored specifically to you.

Consistency is key

Remember that skincare requires consistency and it can take up to 3-6 months of following your skincare routine consistently before you start seeing results. That's why it's important to stick with your skincare steps - no matter how boring it may feel. It's the only way to get significant and lasting changes in the skin. And, cancel any beauty box subscriptions if you have them – jumping from product to product will not improve your skin results!

By following the skincare steps outlined above, you will be well on your way to achieving your skin goals. A basic skincare routine of sunscreen in the morning, cleanser at night and moisturizer day and night is an excellent foundation for good skincare. If you have any specific skincare goals or concerns, adding one or two additional products with the actives that target your goals - but don't go overboard with products! Remember to keep it simple and consistent, ultimately leading to healthy and happy skin.


  • The science behind skin care: Cleansers

  • A consistent skin care regimen leads to objective and subjective improvements in dry human skin: investigator-blinded randomized clinical trial

  • Ultraviolet radiation and skin aging: roles of reactive oxygen species, inflammation and protease activation, and strategies for prevention of inflammation-induced matrix degradation – a review